Disaster Recovery and Fair Housing - Key Accomplishments

Disaster Recovery

  • August 2021: Construction begins on the last of 569 public housing units in Galveston — replacing one-for-one units destroyed by Hurricane Ike — in compliance with our 2010 Conciliation Agreement over Hurricane Ike and Dolly federal disaster recovery funds.
  • August 2020: Worked with partners Coalition for Environment, Equity, and Resilience (CEER), Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME), and Bayou City Waterkeeper to create a Community Flood Resilience Task force, approved by the Harris County Commissioners Court, that works with Harris County Flood Control District (HCFCD) and other county departments to ensure equity in flood infrastructure.
  • 2019: Worked with partners HOME and CEER to include, for the first time, equity language in Harris County’s $2.5 billion flood bond and a new formula for prioritizing projects that includes equity markers like the social vulnerability index, to help prioritize the most vulnerable and underserved areas.
  • October 2017: Held a town hall meeting in Beaumont with the United Way and Catholic Social Services to provide disaster survivors with information about the disaster recovery process and their legal rights.
  • 2017: Helped pass SB 499, adopting the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act, which gives family members additional rights in the partition process and gives judges more discretion to consider factors like wealth preservation and how long the property has been in the family when deciding on partition.
  • 2015: Published the report Lessons from Texas: 10 Years of Disaster Recovery Examined, evaluating disaster recovery in Texas and the failings of the American disaster recovery system. 
  • 2014: With our partners Texas Housers and Texas Organizing Project (TOP), reached an agreement with the City of Houston to target disaster recovery funds, including housing funds and $26 million in infrastructure funds for drainage, to three selected Community Revitalization Areas in neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Ike.
  • 2013: Our advocacy with local partners for rebuilding public housing in the City of Orange resulted in a plan to rebuild and move several developments to higher opportunity areas with less crime, better schools, and less vulnerability to disasters.
  • 2011: In partnership with colonia residents, organizing groups, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, obtained $14 million for drainage in the colonias, which suffered the worst Hurricane Dolly flooding and had hazardous standing water for weeks after the storm.
  • 2010: Used our Conciliation Agreement with the State to support TOP in obtaining an agreement with the Mayor of Houston that moved $30 million in disaster recovery funds to repairing single family homes damaged by Hurricane Ike.
  • May 2010: Signed a HUD-approved Conciliation Agreement with the State — the result of two fair housing administrative complaints with our partner Texas Housers — in which the State agreed to comply with Fair Housing laws in allocating more than $3 billion in disaster recovery funds, and assuring historically underserved communities would get their fair share of the funds. As a result of this Conciliation Agreement, millions of dollars have flowed to these communities. 
  • 2010: Settled Ridgely v. FEMA, a class action Texas Appleseed co-counseled, challenging FEMA’s denial of housing and other disaster assistance, and its procedures for collecting overpayments. FEMA agreed to pay over $2.6 million into a settlement fund.
  • 2009: Helped pass HB 2450, allowing low-income families without clear titles to their home to qualify for disaster assistance with alternative documentation of ownership.
  • April 2009: Convinced the state housing agency to change its policy on clear title as a requirement for disaster recovery benefits, largely allowing low-income disaster victims and people of color affected by disasters to rebuild their homes.
  • 2008: Successfully advocated for policy and program changes, including rewriting the application, in the Rita homeowner assistance program that made the program more accessible and navigable for low-income homeowners. 
  • 2006: Co-counseled Watson, et al. v. FEMA, a class-action suit to prevent FEMA from cutting off emergency housing assistance and rendering homeless more than 50,000 low-income evacuees of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. FEMA extended their deadline for housing assistance by almost a full year.
  • 2006: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and FEMA developed a policy making benefit applications and other critical information more easily accessible to hurricane disaster victims who are deaf and hearing impaired, based on advocacy by Texas Appleseed and other organizations.
  • 2006: Organized FEMA Appeals Clinics with Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program, Lone Star Legal Aid, and the City of Houston, for evacuees appealing denial of FEMA benefits. More than 14 clinics were held across the city, serving more than 500 clients.
  • 2006: Co-sponsored a Hurricane Housing Forum in Houston that provided information and assistance to over 800 Hurricane Katrina evacuees.
  • August 2006: Obtained $1 million of relief for Katrina evacuees in Houston who could not afford utility deposits. With the City of Houston, Office of Public Utility Counsel, Texas Ratepayers Organization to Save Energy, and Texas Legal Services Center, we filed a petition to the Public Utility Commission of Texas to waive utility service deposits for evacuees, which resulted in major electric providers in Houston voluntarily donating almost $500,000 for utility deposits to social service agencies and allowing some hurricane victims to make special payment arrangements.
  • August 2006: Published A Continuing Storm: The On-Going Struggles of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees, a comprehensive study of the status of more than one million Katrina evacuees in six cities across the country, in collaboration with national Appleseed and pro bono law firms.

Fair Housing

  • 2021: Our letter on behalf of coalition partners urging TxDOT not to finalize its plans for the expansion of I-45 in Houston and Harris County because of their disproportionate adverse impact on people of color in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was accepted as an administrative complaint by the Federal Highway Administration. The FHWA has asked TxDOT not to move forward with any I-45 related activity until its civil rights investigation is complete.
  • 2019: Texas Appleseed data on cross programmatic issues like access to fair  financial services is included in the Austin Regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice (AI). The AI examined barriers to housing choice — from housing discrimination to access to transportation — and committed the region to a plan to overcome those barriers.
  • 2017: Worked with community partners in the Rio Grande Valley to challenge Hidalgo County’s Assessment of Fair Housing (AFH) for failing to address a number of fair housing issues. HUD asked the County to revise its AFH in accordance with our challenge. Unfortunately, HUD withdrew the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) rule that required HUD to approve AFHs in 2018 before Hidalgo County was due to submit its revised AFH.
  • 2014: Successfully opposed a state-subsidized project to rehabilitate an assisted development on the fence line of the largest refinery in North America. Tenants were moved to other developments further from environmental hazards.
  • 2011: Worked with the State of Texas and partner Texas Housers to ensure the State’s Phase 1 Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice for disaster areas complied with civil rights requirements and was approved by HUD.